International prospects can sometimes be more appealing to fans of basketball due to the lack of knowledge and understanding about them. For that reason, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most mysterious and intriguing prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft. Antetokounmpo is a young 18-year-old point forward that was born in Greece but is of Nigerian descent. With Giannis' interesting background and his potential future in the NBA, his story is most certainly something for people to keep an eye on.
Nicknamed "The Greek Freak," there has been some confusion on the correct spelling and pronunciation of his name. The pronunciation Giannis' last name is spelled as Antetokounmpo in Greek and on his passport. However, Adetokunbo is his Nigerian family name. For this scouting report, I will be referring to him as "Antetokounmpo."
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With point guard skills and small forward size, Giannis Antetokounmpo has the versatility to be a very effective point forward in the NBA. Giannis has huge potential as a playmaker in both transition and the half-court. Antetokounmpo's advanced dribbling ability allowed him to get to the basket with ease in the Greek A2 league. He showcases a sleek euro-step, along with a nice crossover, and hop step. He dribbles and passes the ball well with both hands, giving him more freedom to make plays at the rim. Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 61.2 percent on two-point field goals last season, with the majority of his baskets coming in the lane. He only averaged 1.4 assists per game but he could have had more with a more prominent point guard role. From three-point range, Giannis Antetokounmpo needs to improve his consistency, but he shows good potential, shooting 31.3 percent from three last year.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has great upside on the defensive end due to his long arms, measuring in with a 7'3" wingspan. Giannis can alter shots but also has the speed to stay in front of his man on the perimeter. Antetokounmpo struggles off-the-ball because he can sometimes lose his man or have a hard time fighting through screens. With more coaching and experience, Giannis Antetokounmpo will likely improve that aspect of his game due to his willingness to work hard.
Keep an eye on the hyperlinks throughout this article, click on them to see videos of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Athleticism and Intangibles
With his tall, lanky frame, and long, skinny arms, Giannis Antetokounmpo has a ways to go in order to look the part of an NBA player. Right now, Giannis is only 205 pounds despite standing at 6'10". His body will remind optimists of Kevin Durant and realists of Nicolas Batum. At only 18 years old, he has plenty of time to develop his body and add muscle to his frame. It's reported he grew about three inches in the last year, so reaching 6'11" is not out of the question.
Unlike Durant and Batum, Antetokounmpo appears to have slightly wider shoulders, which could allow him to put on more weight. Right now his lack of strength will hinder him in the NBA, but with time he should be able to compete with the big boys and still retain his speed to stay with guards and wings.
"The Greek Freak" doesn't exactly have freakish athletic ability to go along with his nickname. Compared to some ‘freaks' in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo might appear relatively normal. Giannis doesn't 'explode' out of the gym with his leaps and he won't blow past anyone with his speed either.
That is not to say that Giannis doesn't have good athleticism -- he does -- but the ‘freak' nickname shouldn't fool anyone into thinking that he is an all-world athlete. His lengthy 7'3" wingspan and excellent body control are what truly give him the ability to compete at the next level. Better yet, at only 18 years old, Antetokounmpo has the room to put on more strength and add explosiveness to his already impressive vertical.
By all accounts, Giannis is a terrific kid. He handles himself well in interviews and seems to put himself ahead of the team. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla asked Giannis who is favorite NBA team was and he replied, "I don't have any specific preference, but I really love the style of play that San Antonio plays. They are a team, and everyone plays for the team." That says it all since Giannis Antetokounmpo's style of play on the floor supports his statement.
Point Guard Skills
Something that is apparent to almost everyone that watches Giannis Antetokounmpo play is his ability to command the point guard position. While he's unlikely to play point guard in the NBA, it's not out of the question for him to play in a point forward type of role because he shows exceptional versatility.
Antetokounmpo possesses excellent dribbling skills and footwork, allowing him to get anywhere he wants on the basketball court. To see both of these skills in action, click here for a clip of him ripping down a rebound and then motoring it up the court to get a look for his teammate. Take note of his footwork on the hop step move as he entered the lane. Antetokounmpo's terrific balance also helps him when making moves like that.
Giannis is consistently able to weave his way through traffic and get to the rim. His vision is outstanding, as he is able to make the play at the right time. In the former clip, Antetokounmpo waits for the defender to leave his feet before making the pass. Time and time again, Giannis has shown an advanced understanding of the game when making these kinds of plays.
Unlike many young players, Giannis Antetokounmpo is very good at dribbling and passing the ball with both hands. I would go so far to say that Antetokounmpo might be ambidextrous since he seems to be equally as good with his handle on the ball. It sure helps that he has enormous hands, giving him the ability to palm the ball with ease.
Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 31.3 percent from three-point range last season. Most of his opportunities came in spot-up situations but he occasionally pulled up off the dribble; in both cases, Giannis showed great confidence and solid mechanics when taking his shot.
It's not a major concern, but it's worth pointing out a very slight hitch that sometimes shows up when Giannis takes a jumper. Look at this video to see a few jump shots when Giannis displays a very minor "pause" or "skip" in his delivery. As he brings his arms up to shoot, he sometimes seems to pause for only a brief moment. This slight hitch could have been the cause of his consistency problems that he had this past season. Besides the pause, Antetokounmpo has a very good shooting form, and it's possible that the hitch isn't the root of his consistency issues. The bottom line is that he must develop more consistent with his outside shot, hitch or not.
The major problem for Antetokounmpo is his lack of a mid-range game. Giannis rarely pulled up to take a jump shot from 13-to-18 feet since he would typically continue his drive to the basket. This doesn't mean that he lacks a mid-range game -- it's just we never see it. One sign that signals he has potential here is his efficient free throw shooting, considering he shot 70.4 percent there last season. Antetokounmpo will have to prove to scouts that he can play the ever so important mid-range game in the NBA.
Transition & Penetration Playmaking
Two highlights of Giannis Antetokounmpo's abilities are his transition and penetration playmaking. In both transition and the half-court offense, Giannis shows special abilities when penetrating the lane. When grabbing a rebound or receiving an outlet pass, Antetokounmpo is able to push the pace and get to the basket. From there, he shows a creative ability to make space for himself to get a layup, where he finishes effectively with both of his hands, or he can pass it to the perimeter to an open teammate. Check out this clip to see a play where Giannis creates a play for himself in the half-court and then for his teammate after a steal in transition.
Antetokounmpo has proven that he can be a capable rebounder, averaging 5 rebounds per game with his "Greek A2" team. Giannis does a solid job of tracking the ball and rebounding it at its apex. As an added bonus, Giannis' point guard skill gives him the ability to do a lot with the ball after a rebound. He has the talent to effectively make an outlet pass or push the ball up the court with his dribble. However, Antetokounmpo still needs to fill out his frame and add muscle to body in order to fight with the bigger players in the NBA.
On and Off-Ball Defense
Most of Giannis Antetokounmpo's problems on the defensive end come from his lack of experience. He appears to lose track of the man he is defending when he is playing off-ball, but with time he should improve there. Whether it's his lack of awareness or lack of strength when fighting through screens, Giannis must get better.
Giannis is adequate at rotating and bothering opponent's shots from the weak side. He also hustles hard, giving him the potential to block shots from behind. This clip shows how Giannis' length can bother his opponent; he won't always be able to get blocks like that in the NBA, but it does show he has the length and swift closing speed to at least bother a shot. As Antetokounmpo gains experience, he will become an even sounder defender.
When his opponent drives to the basket, he must improve on his footwork to get better in the NBA, as he doesn't "slide" his feet as much as he "runs" with the defender. This could get him in trouble when he faces off against more talent and savvy players in higher level leagues.
Despite some of the negatives, Giannis Antetokounmpo has sky-high potential as a defensive player. His physical tools are enough to get any team excited about his upside on that end of the floor. But Giannis must continue to work hard on his fundamentals to be able to achieve what he is capable of.
It's very difficult to gauge Giannis Antetokounmpo's potential considering the level of competition he faced. The Greek A2 league is better than some other European leagues, but it still isn't nearly as talented as Greek's first tier. Antetokounmpo will have to play against better players in order to prove that he truly has the potential he showed this past season.
Regardless of the competition, Antetokounmpo showed many skills that could easily translate to the NBA. It's easy to understand why some people have compared him to Nicolas Batum. Like Batum, he has a solid all around skillset that allow them to fill the stat sheet; both players can score, rebound, pass, and defend had a very good level. They also share similar body types, though Giannis should have more room to put on muscle.
Others would like to compare Antetokounmpo to a young Kevin Durant because of their similar lanky appearance, shooting form, and ability to get to the basket. Perhaps that could've been the case had Giannis been able to play against top international prospects throughout his early teenage years, but Antetokounmpo truly lacks the experience, athleticism, and success to warrant a comparison as immense as that.
Most likely, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be a solid-to-good role player like Nicolas Batum or Lamar Odom. But once again, it's hard to pinpoint both his floor and ceiling as a player due to his age and lack of experience. With time, his potential will become much more clear. This is what adds to the mystery and intrigue of drafting International prospects.
How He Fits on the Celtics
Giannis Antetokounmpo would likely start his career overseas or in the developmental league. Giannis is signed by a team in Spain, so he has the option of staying there to improve his game. However, it's possible that Boston would prefer to see him develop closer to home with the Maine Red Claws.
Looking ahead, Antetokounmpo will likely start his career at the shooting guard position until he puts on the muscle to play small forward. By that point, the Boston Celtics will hope that Jeff Green has the position solidified, but no one can really predict what the team will look like in two-to-three years anyway. No matter what team drafts Giannis Antetokounmpo, they must be one that can afford to have the patience to allow him to develop.